Sunday, December 30, 2012


As I write this we are experiencing the first thunder storm of the summer. Rain is pelting down and the spouting is overflowing. It's hard to believe that just a few hours ago we were walking along the banks of Silver Steam on the Taieri, enjoying a fine day.

The Taieri Plain is just south of Dunedin - a 15 minutes drive - and is mainly rural with sheep, dairy, and horse farms. There is also Dunedin's airport and one of our destinations for the day: McArthurs Berry Farm.

If there is one thing that speaks to me of Christmas and summer it is strawberries.

Christmas dinner is not compete without the pavlova lathered with cream and studded with the ruby red berries. And it's not just the pav. Strawberries grace the trifle and any other sweet concoction the festivities produce.

Today we bought two large punnets of strawberries that were picked only hours before. Bright shiny and gloriously sweet, I've a feeling they will be long gone before I can dream up a dessert for them. No doubt we will be making another trip or two to McArthur's before summer is over.

I forgot to take my camera but here is a photo I found of a portion of the Taieri Plain and Saddle Hill. The larger mound of this saddle is visible from many vantage points in Dunedin. It separates the plain from the sea and was named for its likeness to a saddle. Dunedin is situated off to the left of the photo.

The storm has now passed and the temperature is cooler; a welcome relief. We've been having a warm Christmas - a blessing as it often is cool and unsettled - and a very laid back time it has been. Lots of books to read, friends and family to visit with and this year the addition of two new pets, but that's a story for another post!

Whether you are basking in a southern hemisphere summer or rugged up and watching snow fall, have a happy and safe New Year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Today was the first day of summer holidays for hubby and we trotted off to the newly opened Toitu - Early Settler's Museum.

I posted about it's temporary closure whilst it was being revamped here.

My first impressions are Wow!!! Just Wow!!!

Now it is no secret that I love museums and I love history even more, so it was always going to be a hit with me, but this is the best experience I've ever had at a museum.

Leaving the spacious yet welcoming foyer - encompassing a cafe and the old steam engine, Josephine - we were welcomed by a large 3D movie of the beginnings of New Zealand. An old photograph (circa 1860s) was given the 3D treatment with the bonus of a moving tram. It was amazing to see a piece of our history come to life.

I could go on and on about everything I saw, but I think it will be much kinder to you if I just point out a couple of my favourite exhibits. I will be returning again (and again, and again and ....) so you will be hearing more from me in later posts, no doubt.

The first exhibit that wowed me was a replica of a wattle and daub cottage, built in the exact same way as it would have been in the 1850s. Heres an old photo that appeared in our local paper, the Otago Daily Times, which is what they used for inspiration.

 The end wall - far right - was missing and you could walk in the front door or enter through the side. It was furnished just as it would have been back in the day: rustic bed made from branches tied together, tree stumps for seats, a butter churn, hessian curtains, the family bible, and a sound recording of a mother and baby. And you could pick up and touch everything inside. I really felt as though I had been there.

The other exhibit evoked a strong sense of nostalgia. Dunedin had trolley buses until 1983 and the most memorable was the Tiger Tea bus. Here's a photo of it on one of its last runs.

  Thirty years ago this was the bus I caught to work! Entrance to this exhibit was via the back door of the bus and it was such a treat to sit again on the leather seats and rub my fingers over the wooden panelling. But even more exciting was that the front of the bus was a huge tv screen showing a film of a driver and passengers who conversed about topics circa 1980s and they were traveling along my old bus route!  It was just like riding that bus again, and yes, I shed a nostalgic tear.

The afternoon was finished off nicely with coffee and cake, whilst taking in the view of the Railway Station and the hills beyond. When hubby asked what I thought of the museum, my response was,  "I want to move in!"

Friday, November 23, 2012


So it's day 23 of NaNo and it's almost two weeks since I've blogged.

How am I doing?

I started off with a hiss and a roar and now the pace could be described as plodding. But there is at least a pace of sorts.  :)

This last week I have battled a dose of the 'flu and hubby was away for two nights on business. Both of these events have created a definite sense of 'Blah' in my life.

And what does a hubby bring home for his wife?

An Angry Bird eraser - of course!

I'm looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend, then hopefully I'll be all fired up for the final week of NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Ten days in, 17555 words, and one third of the challenge is over.

I've been surprised at how easy it has been this time around. Usually I can get my words done in about two hours. It is, of course, very first draft, but it's great to write with the internal editor bound and gagged.  I've just let him loose while I write this post and he's jumping about gleefully! Sshhh, don't tell him I'm about to lock him up again.

A few days ago I was tagged by Debbie from Deb E with a blog tag meme. It asks some questions about your current WIP.

So here goes.

What's the working title?
Blackbird - Maddie's Shoshone name.

What genre is it?
Historical Fiction/ Western

A brief synopsis
It has been almost a year since Maddie's Shoshone fiancé died and all she wants is to continue with their plans to raise dairy cows on a piece of her father's land. But her father, the leader of an infamous gang of outlaws has other plans and when a letter arrives from Boston, Maddie is forced to make the hardest decision of her life.
Add to that a blossoming, but difficult romance with her childhood sweetheart and the arrival of an unconscious stranger, with a dark secret.
Set in late 1880s in the mountains and plains of north west Wyoming, Maddie's story also takes the reader to Idaho, Montana and the bustling city of San Francisco.

Where did the idea for the story come from?
I was watching an old western, Alias Smith and Jones, and the story just fell in my lap. And BTW, apart from the odd outlaw, my story doesn't resemble the programme in any way.
I wasn't even a writer at the time, but the story wouldn't go away and so my journey as a writer began.

If your story was made into a movie who would you pick to play the roles?
I have definite pictures in my head for the characters, most of which are pure imagination. The exception being Maddie, who is a cross between Katie Melua (singer) and a young Sigrid Thornton and for Logan (her childhood sweetheart) a young Ben Murphy - straight out of Alias Smith and Jones. So I couldn't begin to think who I'd pick.

Ben Murphy

Sigrid Thornton

Katie Melua

Time for me to pass on the meme to 5 writers: Melissa Marsh, Clarissa Draper, Joanne Ganley, Elisabeth Grace Foley and Kay Cooke.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Day three of NaNo - it's Saturday and all the family are about. After doing the weekly grocery shopping, hubby and I had a takeaway coffee overlooking Otago Harbour and our beautiful city.

These photos were taken a few months ago, so the trees look decidedly wintery. Although I have to say that today the weather certainly felt wintery. Here we are in the last month of spring and we have had hail showers all day and apparently there was a little snow on the hills again this morning. I can't confirm that as Saturday is sleep-in day!

After our outing I locked myself in my room and wrote. Today I clocked up 1831 words bringing my total to 5493 - 492 words ahead!

Apart from getting the words down at a good rate, I am enjoying the process. The first half hour is the hardest with false starts, brain freeze, and the constant desire to get up and walk away. Then something clicks in my mind and I'm away.

The biggest change (so far) to the story is that I have made my MC, Maddie, four years older. Now that she is twenty I feel like I have finally connected with her character. In my earlier drafts her youth somehow translated into a weak character. Well, she certainly isn't that anymore. Surprisingly, the change in age has little effect on the overall plot. Sigh! If only I had thought of this earlier.

I've left Maddie, and a few important characters, sitting in a wagon. I hope they don't take off without me overnight!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


NaNoWriMo 2012 has begun!

After hubby and the kids left for school I finished the daily Code Cracker in the newspaper, swilled back my first cuppa for the day, went for a brisk half hour walk, then plonked myself in front of the computer.

I had been both excited and terrified of this moment. I really wanted to get into the story, yet wondered if any words would form. You see I'm doing a complete rewrite of my first novel, Blackbird, which has languished for almost a year, waiting for just the right time for me to rewrite it. And in the back of my mind I knew that if I couldn't get it right this time, then it would be permanently consigned to some dark and dusty bottom drawer. That in itself would be a waste, but I have a draft copy of Blackbird's sequel - my 2010 NaNo project - which would also be wasted if Blackbird never saw the light of day.

So, how did my day go?

The first bit of good news is that I clocked up 2401 words in a couple of hours. The second bit of news is that I'm really liking what came out. Sure it's first draft material and will need plenty of editing, but it just feels right.

Here's hoping for many more great days this month.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Last week I finished reading the first in Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia series: Silent in the Grave. I wrote a review of the second book, Silent in the Sanctuary, here.

If you like mysteries or Victorian historicals or both, then I highly recommend this wonderful read.

From Lady Julia's eccentric family, to the swarthy, mysterious Nicholas Brisbane the plot thickens, twists, turns and thickens again!

The historical detail is sumptuous, the characterisations exact and the mystery of who killed Lady Julia's husband will keep you guessing until the end.

Here's the opening line:

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor. 

Isn't that a punchy opening?

On finishing this book I wanted to read it all over again, to find the clues I had missed and to just luxuriate in the wonderful world Deanna Raybourn creates.

I have read other reviews that liken this series to Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series. There is definitely some truth in that, but both these talented authors have such unique and powerful voices that, for me anyway, they are incomparable. They are both great reads, and both series are taking pride of place on my book shelf as I slowly collect them. And with Christmas just around the corner, I know my collection is going to grow. (Thanks to a wonderful hubby!)


I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. It only dawned on me yesterday that November starts THIS WEEK! I was so sure I had another week to prepare. Eek! Right, time to put the computer away and get my plan of attack sorted.

Are you NaNo-ing?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


T.S.S.Earnslaw  photo:

This year is the centenary of the building of the steam ship T.S.S.Earnslaw. Built in 1912, in Dunedin, by J.Mcgregor and Co it was dismantled and transported by train to Kingston - a small town on the southern tip of Lake Wakitipu.

Here it was put to service (after they put it back together again!) as a cargo ship, livestock carrier and passenger vessel between Kingston, Queenstown and Glenorchy. In the early days there were few roads so the use of a steamship was essential.

Now, this graceful 'Lady of the Lake' is one of Queenstown's more sedate tourist attractions. The puff of black smoke and the toot of her whistle are as much a part of Queenstown as the snowy Remarkables or the gondolas that traverse Bob's Peak.

T.S.S.Earnslaw  photo:

I have fond memories of my last voyage upon her. It was August 1991 and hubby and I were wrapped up against one of the worst winters in hsitory. The occassion - our honeymoon. I can't share any of the photos as they are the old fashioned printed ones! Despite the cold, the scenery was breathtaking. There is a magical quality to steaming along in an old boat trimmed with wood and gleaming brass.

There is a wonderful site devoted to the Earnslaw and its history, here. I've had a dig around and I've discovered some surprising facts:

It is the largest coal-fired steam ship in the Southern Hemisphere.

Famous guests on board: - the Duke of York, 1927
                                        - the Duke of Gloucester, 1935
                                        - Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, 1990
                                        - President Bill Clinton, 1999

Film appearances:  In 2008 a brief appearance as an Amazon River Boat in Indiana Jones and the  Crystal Skull.
                              Parts of her were the basis for the S.S.Venture in Peter Jackson's King Kong.

I intend to go back to that site and see what else I can unearth. There are some stories of people's memories of the Earnslaw which I'm sure will make fascinating reading. They might even inspire a story or two from me.

On board the Lady of the Lake. photo:

As you can imagine there were plenty of events in Queenstown, Kingston and Glenorchy to mark the Lady's 100th birthday. In Dunedin we had our own festival to mark the occasion. A steam train was brought down from the North Island that offered short rides to Sawyers Bay and back, as well as a day trip to Invercargill. There were also several events organised by our very own steampunk group: The Grand Gadgeteers.

Two of my writing friends are part of this group and I joined them at the Railway Station on Saturday afternoon. The place bustled with train enthusiasts, parents, children and a small group of strange, but beautifully dressed Gadgeteers.

Ruth, aka Miss Prudence Winterbottom.

Kura, aka The Widow, Mia F. Peasgoode 

The next historical event on the calendar is a Victorian Fete at the end of November. A train is running up to Oamaru for the day - the culmination of a whole week of Victorian events in this beautiful town, reknowned for its whitestone Victorian buildings. My friends have encouraged me to dress up in full Victorian regalia, but being of a short, plump disposition I fear I will look like none other than Queen Victoria!  Mmmm, I can't decide if this is a good thing - or not. Regardless of my attire I intend to enjoy the day. No doubt you will hear all about it in due course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


In preparation for tonight's writers group, I have been surfing the net on this month's topic of over-writing. 

Keeping away from Purple Prose and limiting the use of adjectives and adverbs  were, of course, the 'rules' that gave me the most hits. But just how long have writers been given this advice? 

I thought they were a rather newish addition to 'writing 101'. But here we have Horace waxing lyrical about purple patches in the 1st Century BC!   

"Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy
purple patches; as when describing
a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana,
or a stream meandering through fields,
or the river Rhine, or a rainbow;
but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render
a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint
a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?"

- Quintus Horatius Flaccus (8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC), known as Horace in the English speaking world.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus - Horace

And here is Mark Twain's take on the overuse of adverbs and adjectives, a 130 odd years ago. (I particularly like the 1st quote.)  

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.
- Letter to Orion Clemens, 3/23/1878

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English--it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them--then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
- Letter to D. W. Bowser, 3/20/1880

I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me. To misplace an adverb is a thing which I am able to do with frozen indifference; it can never give me a pang. ... There are subtleties which I cannot master at all,--they confuse me, they mean absolutely nothing to me,--and this adverb plague is one of them. ... Yes, there are things which we cannot learn, and there is no use in fretting about it. I cannot learn adverbs; and what is more I won't.
- "Reply to a Boston Girl," Atlantic Monthly, June 1880

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)  a.k.a. Mark Twain
What's your favourite writer's quote?

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Yesterday (Saturday US time) was the launch date for Elisabeth Grace Foley's new book. This is the first in a series featuring elderly sleuth, Mrs Meade. This 15700 word novella will appeal to those who enjoy historical mysteries and/or westerns. As a lover of both genres I was in for a treat.

In a small, turn-of-the-century western town, a young lady is missing. Charity's fiance is sure she has been kidnapped, until a detective turns up looking for a woman that fits her description. But Mrs Meade, a shrewd and gentle older lady has her own ideas about what became of Charity.

This mystery kept me guessing until the very end, with a couple of good twists to throw me right off the trail. Mrs Meade reminds me of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. A Western Miss Marple.

Elisabeth has turned out another great story with spot on characterizations, an expert eye for historical detail and a voice that is reminescent of nineteenth century novelists. One could say she breaks the rules with longer sentences and detailed descriptions, but for me it adds to the atmosphere, grounding the reader firmly in the era. I'm looking forward to the next Mrs Meade mystery.

The Silver Shawl can be bought from KindleNookKobo and Smashwords. US$1.50.

You can visit Elisabeth at her blog: The Second Sentence.

And isn't the cover just perfect?


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I am the very proud owner of a Bernina 730 Record sewing machine, circa early 1960s. My old machine (which is actually only 20 years old) was tired and a bit broken and sewing on it was not a pleasant experience. So hubby took me shopping and we found this refurbished little gem.

30lbs (for metric people: that's heavy!) of brilliant Swiss engineering!

It's a dream to sew with. The motor purrs and the stitches are neat and straight. I pieced a wall-hanging the other day and I was reminded how much I love to sew! I have quite a few projects waiting for me to complete and my creative juices are dreaming up more by the hour! I'll post pictures as I complete them.

Two of my fellow Mad Scribblers (my critique group) also have newly acquired vintage machines. We may have to create a sub-group and call ourselves the Mad Vintage Sewers!

It's even got an attachment for spare bobbins and cotton reels and three pull out drawers for the large assortment of feet.

Do you sew and what do you sew on? I'd love to hear about your favourite, or not so favourite, machines.

A quick writing update: Amelia's muscles have atrophied (see earlier post here), but I'm licking those short stories in to shape.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I haven't been around for a wee bit. Life is going through a busy patch and, most importantly, I've been putting in some good writing hours.

A couple of posts ago I told you about our visiting hens and rooster. Well, here's an update on our unusual guests.

Yesterday, two little lambs slept on our back lawn for the whole afternoon whilst 'mummy' mowed our grass. She left a lovely supply of fertilizer too!

Never a dull moment around here.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I've had a very laid back weekend and one of the highlights was a wander through Dunedin's Botanic Gardens with hubby.

Even a writer has to admit that some pictures paint a thousand words. So I'll let my camera take over the rest of this post.

And of course it wasn't just the magnolias putting on a brilliant display.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Another week comes to an end, yet another with a sick child. This time it was the turn of my daughter. There is a persistent little virus running rife in our city and I hope it packs it's bags soon. It has long outstayed its welcome.

There have, however, been more welcome visitors to this household. For the past few mornings two roosters and a hen have chosen our back fence to crow from and spent the days pecking at our lawn. They come from the farm behind us and turn up every now and then. I do think the hen should lay us and egg or two, but we've had no luck so far.

Here's some snaps from through the window. They're very shy, fluttering and scurrying away if we approach them.

Yesterday I came across another visitor. I picked up a pile of washing to put in the laundry basket and out popped a lizard. I have to admit to a yelp and a quick exit from the bathroom. Lizards aren't generally found inside! In fact I don't think I've seen one since I was a kid.

Here's a photo I found on the web. It's almost identical to the one who came calling. It's an Otago striped skink. The little fellow was about 6 inches long.  He is now safely outside where all good lizards belong!

Now I wonder what's in store for me next week?

Friday, August 31, 2012


Between my own bouts of 'flu and the families ills and chills I've been making slow headway through various projects.

I'm wanting to e-publish a collection of my historical short stories and I've gathered together seven stories so far. Most of them have needed tweaking, rearranging and in some cases extending. They were all written for competitions with word limits so I'm enjoying the freedom of having that restraint removed.

Some were written a couple of years ago and it's good to see that my writing has improved since then, even though that means more work in rewriting. But it's not just the writing I'm looking at. The story I'm working on at the moment, for example, needed some words and historical facts checked.

The Shacklock orion coal range. 

Set in the time of our one and only bush-ranger - Henry Garrett - it features what is probably his most famous misdemeanor. The robbery of 15 men at the foot of the Maungatua mountains, with unloaded pistols. He was a gentleman you see! Checking a few facts I realised that although the sticking-up took place in 1861, I had eluded to Shacklock's wonderful new coal ranges which  were not produced until 1873!  Here's a photo of one. I would simply love to have one in my own kitchen.

And somehow those majestic horses with the feathered feet became Drysdales. I've now renamed them correctly as Clydesdales.

I'm halfway through this project and have decided to put off the whole technical task of formatting and horrible tax things until I'm finished. By then it should be summer and hubby will be on holiday with a little more time to advise me. Hubbies are very useful, aren't they?

On the novel writing front, I've left poor Amelia standing in the doorway of the Crown Hotel's dining room, staring at Mr Theodore Brennan. Poor girl has been there for a week or two - I hope her muscles haven't atrophied. I'm having trouble with her. I just can't seem to bring out her best side and stifle her rather selfish behaviour. She really is a lovely girl and deserves much better treatment from me.

I think I need to leave her there and jump forward in the story. Write lots of scenes where you can't help but like her and feel a little sorry for her predicaments. Hopefully I'll then be able to go back and salvage the mess I've left her in.

And on a final note: NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and I think I'm going to give it another go this year. More on that later.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


In the midst of the mad morning dash to school and work there was a little beam of sunshine. My daughter, who has been having a love hate relationship with books lately, came downstairs with one of my well loved books - Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. It sat by her bowl as she ate her porridge and then was placed in her school bag for further reading during the day.

Ballet Shoes was one of my most loved books as a child. Mum read it to me several times then I read it myself again and again. I just loved those little Fossil girls.

Here's a blurb about the book from Book Depository:

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are found as orphaned babies in different parts of the world by eccentric fossil collector and explorer Gum. He adopts them, takes them to his London home and leaves them in the care of his niece Sylvia and the family Nurse. Then off he goes to continue his exploring, saying that he'll be back in five years' time. When the three little girls are old enough, they choose the surname Fossil for themselves and vow to make the name famous. At first they lead privileged and sheltered lives. But when Gum fails to return after five years, Sylvia's money begins to run out. First she is forced to take in some boarders - an engaging and eclectic mix of characters - but then she decides that the girls should go to acting school. This way they will be able to earn some money before they grow up. Pauline adores the school, as she dreams of becoming an actress. Petrova hates it, all she wants to do is learn about cars and planes and engines. Posy loves it too - she is born to be a dancer and the school is the perfect place for her.

Noel Streatfeild  went on to write a whole series of 'Shoe' books and many others as well, but Ballet Shoes is the only one I've read. You may have seen the tv movie from a couple of years ago starring Emma Watson. 

Ballet Shoes also got a mention in the Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan movie: 'You've Got Mail' - which is one of my favourite movies, but that's another story.

My copy has long lost its jacket and the green cloth cover is faded and worn, but of all the available editions, this one looks just right to me. 

And here's a picture from inside. Uncle Gum and the three Fossils.

Noel Streatfeild OBE 24 December 1895 – 11 September 1986
Have you read anything by Noel Streatfeild and what was your favourite children's book?

Saturday, August 25, 2012


As you can see, things have changed a bit around here. Nothing like a change, is there?

I just wanted to give a big shout out to the wonderful designer, Karen Watson of The Background Fairy.   She designs stunning backgrounds and headers for blogs and has generously made them available at no cost. You can find her site here . Or click on the button below.

The Background Fairy

Friday, August 24, 2012


I'm having a bit of a topsy-turvy week. One of those weeks when outside influences cause you to through your routine out the window. Nothing major, nothing to worry about, I'm just finding it hard to settle to anything.

On a possitve note, our week of persistent rain has fled, for good, I hope. Everything is drying out and the massive pile of washing in the laundry is shrinking. Always a good way to start the weekend.

And an exciting note: I won tickets for two to our local Fortune theatre to see a play called Heroes. It was wonderful: funny and touching. It's 1959 and three WWI veterans sit on the terrace of their old peoples home in France, reminiscing and making plans to escape. A 200 pound stone statue of a dog plays a significant part too! Also, I had never been to this theatre, which was converted from an old church, many, many years ago. I really must try to go more often.

The Fortune Theatre.

 I did start the week off on a very satisfying note. As I've mentioned before I also like to quilt. Before I started writing, I had finished a quilt for the second son and one for my daughter, but my poor eldest son has had to wait far too long. On Sunday afternoon I glued myself to the kitchen table until it was finished. I now have one very happy son!

Here's my quilt threesome.

My oldest's quilt - a musical theme.

A closeup of the fabrics.

And here's the one I made my daughter:

I loved making this - such gorgeous girly fabrics!

This was the very first quilt I made. The cats just make this.

Next is a quilt for me and hubby!

Have a great weekend.